Reformer caught in cross-fire

9th June 2000 at 01:00

PHILIPPE Meirieu, architect of last year's lycee reform, has resigned as director of France's pedagogical research institute, claiming he had been "shot in the back" by the education ministry. He said the ministry had failed to support him in his attempts to modernise the institute.

Meirieu was a casualty of a battle between innovators who want to update the education system and conservatives who fear a lowering of standards.

Professor of education at Lyon University, Meirieu was an ally of progressive former education minister Claude Allegre, who gave him responsibility for proposing lycee (upper secondary) reforms before appointing him as head of the institute.

Here his brief was to introduce research projects that were less theoretical and of more practical use to teachers in the classroom.

But, as Meirieu explained in his letter of resignation to staff: "Renovating the institute met with much internal resistance and hostility from union branches." He criticised the "immobility" within the institute and refusal to consider even the smallest changes.

Since Claude Allegre was replaced in March by Jack Lang, Meirieu said that he had received no support from his parent ministry. He also criticised Lang's preference for setting up pilots in just a handful of experimental schools - a policy he denounced as "politically dangerous".

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